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Chapter 5 — Section I

With President Trachtenberg's departure, the Board of Regents once again decided to build on the strengths of the previous administration, as they sought someone who could truly internationalize the University of Hartford at a time when global communication and international business were clearly the wave of the future if not the imperative of the minute, and who could add academic luster to the University's programs. The choice, not only of the Regents, but of the representatives of all constituencies who interviewed him as a final presidential candidate, was Dr. Humphrey Tonkin, whose appointment was announced by board chair Wallace Barnes in October 1988. British by birth, with degrees from Cambridge University and Harvard, President Tonkin brought impressive administrative credentials in both the private sector, having been vice-provost at the University of Pennsylvania, and the public sector, as President of the State University of New York at Potsdam. He was also a scholar: a full professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, he was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and had served as visiting professor at Columbia. Taking office from Acting President Lebed in February 1989, he was confronted with some immediate problems. A threatened strike of janitorial staff was narrowly averted in the first two weeks of his administration, and the University was quarantined shortly thereafter because of an outbreak of measles.

The campus for which he assumed responsibility was quite literally a campus in transition. The final stages of the Trachtenberg building program were still in progress. By the time they were through, they would increase the square footage of the University by some forty percent. In the first several months of the Tonkin administration, the remaining portions of the Regents Park residence hall were opened, the Park River Apartments received their first residents, the Sports Center became fully operational, and the University Center was opened. The sea of mud in which students, faculty, and staff had been living began to recede, and the new campus blossomed. The opening of the University Center was the occasion for much celebration, with the president of the New York Public Library, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, coming to perform the opening ceremony, and with President Tonkin announcing the naming of the Center for Harry Jack Gray, former CEO of United Technologies and a long-time benefactor of the University. Conversations between Mr. Gray and President Tonkin had recently resulted in Mr. Gray's giving the University what was then the largest gift in its history, thereby completing President Trachtenberg's capital campaign of the 1980s and preparing the institution for a new era.

Dr. Tonkin lost no time in announcing an agenda. His inauguration in the fall of 1989 coincided with a meeting of some fifty heads of universities from North America and Europe, hosted in the new conference facilities at the Gray Center. Not only did this event send a message to the community about the importance of the international connection, bringing national attention to the University in the process, but it also served to set the intellectual tone for an administration that was to take the life of the mind very seriously.

Deeply committed to diversifying higher education and making it available to a broad constituency, President Tonkin set about not only internationalizing the curriculum for traditional-aged undergraduates, but also expanding the reach of the University to include links with the public schools of the city of Hartford and continuing educational programs for older citizens. His goal, he announced, was to make the University an institution that served the region as effectively as possible, with programs of national and international quality.

One of the outcomes of the conference of university heads was an agreement to assist one of Poland's leading institutions, Jagiellonian University, in Krakow, to create a school of business studies. Working through a consortium of American institutions, with itself as the lead institution and in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Boston College, and Columbia University, the University of Hartford sent a steady stream of faculty members to Krakow to teach short courses, and hosted Polish faculty members and advanced students in Hartford and at the other consortium institutions. Funding for the program was provided by the United States Information Agency and by the Mellon Foundation. Unlike many stillborn projects in Eastern Europe, where the glamour of opportunity has outshone the staying power of American institutions, the Hartford program was crowned with success: a full-fledged faculty of business is now in operation at Krakow, and many members of the University of Hartford's faculty have now had the experience of living and teaching abroad. This outcome was, however, a product of dogged determination and imaginative problem-solving on the part of the organizers of the program, as well as a relentless and ultimately successful search for funds.

The Polish cooperation was not the only international program to be launched or strengthened. New exchange agreements were signed with three leading universities in Turkey, and expanded student recruitment in many parts of the world led to growth in international enrollment. The exchange program with Hertford College of Oxford University was expanded to include not only student exchange but an annual lecture at Hartford and various summer programs in England.

more> Chapter 5 — Section II